A gated Silver Lake alley that runs behind a Sunset Boulevard minimall has been blamed for creating a safe haven for criminal activity, from prostitution to drug use, and a hang out for the homeless. On Friday, a pile of debris in the alley, which runs between Benton Way and Coronado Street, caught fire, the latest sign of trouble, according to officials with the Coronado Elsinore Neighborhood Watch . The solution, according to neighborhood watch, police and city council officials, is to unlock those alley gates, making it easier to patrol and clean the narrow lane. “I would like to just go in and cut the locks off–I can’t get in either,” said Senior Lead Officer Al Polehonki with the Northeast Division.
But, thanks to city policy and procedures, it’s going to take more than bolt cutters to reopen those gates.
The western edge of the alley is sealed off with towering steel gates, apparently in an effort deter crime. Neither Polehonki or the officials with Council District 13 know when the gates were installed, with a council district spokeswoman saying the gates were already in place by the time Councilman Eric Garcetti was elected to office in 2001. However, after some research, city staff found out that the gates went up after residents petitioned for their installation. Under city policy, it will take another petition to reopen the alley, said Council District 13 spokesman Diego de la Garza.
“We are looking to find a way to open up the alley during the petition process but we don’t know if it’s possible yet,” said De La Garza. “We still have to do a bit more research.” Still to be determined is how far from the alley the petition needs to be circulated and how many signatures need to be gathered.
Meanwhile, the alley continues to generate concern for nearby residents and police. The eastern gate of the alley is often covered with vines and piles of trash, furniture and other debris, making it difficult for officers to see what’s going on while on patrol, said Polehonki, who said officers have made recent narcotics-related arrests in the alley. The gated alley also complicates the job of cleaning up furniture and trash.
An official with the Coronado Elsinore Neighborhood Watch said it’s not even clear who has padlock keys to reopen the gates.
“Given that, our community no longer has a key to the locks and because there are no accessible locks, the alley is by default considered private property and LAPD cannot legally patrol the alley,” said the neighborhood watch volunteer. “Without patrol in the alley, this has resulted in it being a private haven for a drug use and prostitution encampment.”
If closing the alley was once considered the solution to combating crime, that idea no longer works, according to police. ” I think there is more liability in leaving it the way it is now,” Polehonki said.